Thomas Rutling (1854-1915) was an American former slave who became an original member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choral group that toured throughout the United States and Europe. He was a tenor in the group.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers are an African-American a cappella ensemble, consisting of students at Fisk University. The first group was organized in 1871 to tour and raise funds for college. Their early repertoire consisted mostly of traditional spirituals, but included some songs by Stephen Foster. The original group toured along the Underground Railroad path in the United States, as well as performing in England and Europe. Later 19th-century groups also toured in Europe.
Tenor is a male voice type in classical music whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A♭2 (two A♭s below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.
Rutling was born on December 24, 1854 into slavery. His father had either been sold by slavers or had run away before his birth. Rutling was the youngest out of nine children. His mother was sold when he was age three. Rutling never found out the fate of his parents. At age eight, Rutling was put into fieldwork, but his master soon redirected him to household work. In 1865, Union soldiers freed him from slavery.
As a free man, Rutling travelled to Nashville, where his sister taught him to read and write. Rutling then started to work for a surgeon and then enrolled in high school at Fisk University. Thomas paid for his tuition by becoming a waiter for the teachers. He attended the Literary Society’s weekly debates, which helped with his linguistic skills.
Fisk University is a private historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee. The university was founded in 1866 and its 40-acre (160,000 m2) campus is a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1871, Rutling joined the university’s choir as a tenor. They toured across the country to raise funds and spread awareness for Fisk University. The choir was soon named the Fisk Jubilee Singers, since they sang renditions of Negro spirituals.
Rutling spent seven years touring with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. At the end of that period, he became ill and moved to Switzerland at the end of a tour. He supposedly fathered a son in Austria.
Rutling then returned to England, where he was sponsored as a singer by August Manns, an orchestral director. When public interest in his singing waned, he became a voice teacher at schools in Britain. In 1907, he toured church halls. Rutling published a short autobiography in Bradford and Devon.
Sir August Friedrich Manns was a German-born conductor who made his career in England. After serving as a military bandmaster in Germany, he moved to England and soon became director of music at London's Crystal Palace. He increased the resident band to full symphonic strength and for more than forty years conducted concerts at popular prices. He introduced a wide range of music to London, including many works by young British composers, as well as works by German masters hitherto neglected in England. Among his British protégés were Arthur Sullivan, Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry, Hamish MacCunn, Edward Elgar and Edward German.
Thomas Rutling died on April 26, 1915 at 97 Valley Drive, Harrogate. His death may have been due to liver cancer. Rutling's friends paid for his funeral and plot in Grove Road cemetery, includingthe stone cross inscribed “Late Jubilee Singer, Fisk University. They sing the song of the lamb”.
Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, England. Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the town is a tourist destination and its visitor attractions include its spa waters and RHS Harlow Carr gardens. 13 miles (21 km) away from the town centre is the Yorkshire Dales national park and the Nidderdale AONB. Harrogate grew out of two smaller settlements, High Harrogate and Low Harrogate, in the 17th century. Since 2013, polls have consistently voted the town as "the happiest place to live" in Britain.
Liver cancer, also known as hepatic cancer and primary hepatic cancer, is cancer that starts in the liver. Cancer which has spread from elsewhere to the liver, known as liver metastasis, is more common than that which starts in the liver. Symptoms of liver cancer may include a lump or pain in the right side below the rib cage, swelling of the abdomen, yellowish skin, easy bruising, weight loss, and weakness.
Rutling was remembered with love and affection, his impact (mainly in Britain) was significant. He was remembered for his singing, his eloquence, and his role as a representative of the Afro-American arts.
Spirituals are generally Christian songs that were created by African Americans. Spirituals were originally an oral tradition that imparted Christian values while also describing the hardships of slavery. Although spirituals were originally unaccompanied monophonic (unison) songs, they are best known today in harmonized choral arrangements. This historic group of uniquely American songs is now recognized as a distinct genre of music.
Robert Tear, CBE was a Welsh tenor singer, teacher and conductor. He first became known singing in the operas of Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s. From the 1970s until his retirement in 1999 his main operatic base was the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; he appeared with other opera companies in the UK, mainland Europe, the US and Australia. Generally avoiding the Italian repertoire, which did not suit his voice, Tear became known in leading and character roles in German, British and Russian operas.
Jubilee quartets were popular African-American religious musical groups in the first half of the 20th century. The name derives from the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group of singers organized by George L. White at Fisk University in 1871 to sing Negro spirituals. The members of the original Fisk Jubilee Quartet (1909-1916) were Alfred G. King, James A. Myers, Noah W. Ryder, and John W. Work II. Students at other historically black schools, such as Hampton Institute, Tuskegee Institute and Wilberforce University, followed suit.
Roland Hayes was an American lyric tenor and composer. Critics lauded his abilities and linguistic skills demonstrated with songs in French, German and Italian. Earlier African-American concert artists were not recorded because in their day recording companies were only interested in a vaudeville type of singer. Hayes was the first to break this barrier and in 1939 he recorded with Columbia.
John Wesley Work III was a composer, educator, choral director, musicologist and scholar of African-American folklore and music.
William Heddle Nash was an English lyric tenor who appeared in opera and oratorio in the middle decades of the twentieth century. He also made numerous recordings that are still available on CD reissues.
"Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" is a traditional Negro spiritual. It dates back to the era of slavery in the United States. An early performance of the song dates back to the 1870s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Like many traditional songs, it has many variations and has been recorded widely.
Pasquale Brignoli was an Italian-born American tenor.
John Wesley Work Jr. was the first African-American collector of folk songs and spirituals, and also a choral director, educationalist and songwriter. He is now sometimes known as John Wesley Work II, to distinguish him from his son, John Wesley Work III.
Frederick Jeremiah Loudin was the leader of the Loudin Jubilee Singers. His commanding presence and ambitious personality caused him to emerge as an unofficial spokesperson during the four years he toured with them. He later became internationally famous as the leader of his own brand of Jubilee Singers, the Loudin Jubilee Singers, who toured internationally. Their world tour took 6 years to complete and was the first of its kind, in that respect.
Thomas Washington Talley was a chemistry professor at Fisk University and a collector of African American folk songs.
America W. Robinson was an African-American educator. Robinson was in the first graduating class of Fisk University and sang as a contralto with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. She was the first woman to graduate from Fisk University.
Maggie Porter (1853-1942) was a first-generation-freed slave, and she is most notable as an original member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, one of only four members to participate in all three of the original tours by the group. She was known for her vocal talents as a soprano and also worked as a schoolteacher.
Matthew Washington Kennedy was an African-American classical pianist, professor, choral director, composer, and arranger of Negro Spirituals. He is widely known as the director of the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers of Nashville, Tennessee from 1957 to 1986.
Ella Sheppard was a soprano, pianist, composer, and arranger of Negro Spirituals. She was the matriarch of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers of Nashville, Tennessee. She also played the organ and the guitar. Sheppard was a friend and confidante of African-American activists and orators Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass.
Mary Eliza Walker Crump was an African-American contralto singer and manager, one of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers.
Minnie Tate was the youngest original member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Jennie Jackson was an American singer and voice teacher. She was one of the original members of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, an African-American a cappella ensemble. She toured with the group from 1871 to 1877. In 1891 she formed her own sextet, the Jennie Jackson Concert Company.